The Imposter Syndrome

Here is a great piece about the Imposter Syndrome I came across.

As she defines it, the Imposter Syndrome is:

You achieve things, you do assignments, and you go through school and work, hoping that nobody will realize that you have no idea what you’re doing. You say, “oh, I got lucky on that one,” or, “someone helped me along with that one,” or, “what I did really wasn’t that big of a deal.”

This is me in a nutshell, whether we’re talking about school or work. Now, especially when it comes to schoolwork, I find this syndrome to be applicable. There are countless times where I legitimately do not know what the hell I am doing, but since throughout my schooling, I somewhat earned a reputation as the “smart guy” (or at least, the glasses I wear made people stereotypically assume as such), people often would ask me, “Brett, how do you do this?” And I’d have to apologetically say, “I have no idea,” to which, they would say, “But you always know!” I guess not.

As for work, I constantly feel inferior or inadequate or unable to do something right. It’s one of my most consistent and detrimental fears. So detrimental, in fact, that one of the reasons I stayed at the Original Pancake House as a busser for nearly eight years was because I feared leaving that comfort zone and “not knowing what to do.” It was and is crippling.

The author is right on the money in terms of shredding down my mentality with school and work. There’s the age-old egoism effect here too: we think we’re the center of the galaxy and as such, view everything through that prism; this is no different. We think we are the only possible ones suffering through the doubts, the fears, the worrying, etc. about a school assignment or work-related activity.

But it’s more than just that because this whole concept is that of the “imposter.” So, on the other hand, aside from peddling egomania, you’re also consumed with the fear of being a “fraud,” of not actually being that smart. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve experienced that feeling whereby I think, “Nah, I’m just not as smart or in-the-know as everyone else.” Yet, people will say I am which just furthers that feeling.

She cites Dr. Valerie Young, who says:

The thing about ‘impostors’ is they have unsustainably high standards for everything they do. The thinking here is, If I don’t know everything, then I know nothing. If it’s not absolutely perfect, it’s woefully deficient. If I’m not operating at the top of my game 24/7, then I’m incompetent.

Again, that’s me and I’m sure others. I absolutely dread going into an unpredictable situation where I do not know everything. So, now I am also a control freak. For instance, even something minor about calling a loan agency to inquire about getting a loan. I can’t foresee nor know all the questions they may ask me and it really bothers me when they inevitability ask me those questions I do not know. It makes me feel fucking stupid, to be blunt about it. And I hate feeling stupid. Damn, what a mash-up of egomania, paranoia, and feeling of fraudulence, insecurity, control issues and such. Ugh.

And I am quite positive everyone with this, like me, knows exactly how to not have it. The number one, obviously, is to have confidence. Great, let me go buy that at the local Wal-Mart; I hope they have it on sale! Take risks is another one. Well, I jumped out of an airplane, but I am still afraid to jump out of my inner comfort zone, so now what?

I mean, I don’t disagree with any of that or this image she offered. It’s undeniably the case. There’s that old quote about how nobody knows what the fuck they’re doing, but others (with confidence) are better able to hide it. Okay, I added my style to that, but you get the point.


3 thoughts

  1. I also had that “smart” label since I was a teenager. That feeling of “fraudulence” is something I’ve lived with for years. I chose factory type work from an early age for a reason; I knew I wouldn’t be exposed as being rather ordinary.


    1. Oddly enough, it is in those kinda jobs where I feel the most vulnerable and fraudulent because in my mind, I don’t mean to say I am above those jobs, but I feel I should be able to easily master them. Instead, I feel it’s more like, ‘Well, look at him and his fancy college education and I’m smarter at this job than him.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s